Tibeau Cemetery: Falling into the Sea

The taxi driver repeated it back. “You want to go to the Tibeau Cemetery?” He seemed confused and probably suspicious.

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The previous day, I asked the innkeeper about the cemetery.

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Someone who grew up in these islands told us about it and I was very curious.

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Climate change. The innkeeper said, “You must have noticed since your last trip here, we are losing land.”

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The cook overheard me ask, “Are people going to be upset if we’re down there taking a bunch of pictures?”

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“We’ve had some trouble, you know.” She said, “They are stealing identities of the dead.”

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“Oh, really?” I said, “I think that’s how Trump won the election.” She doubled over laughing.

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Some of the dates on the graves were old.

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But some of the ones in the water were as recent as the 1980s.

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I saw a bone.

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It could have been from an animal.

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I thought I should take a picture of the bone because no one would believe me.

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But it felt disrespectful, so I didn’t do it.

(no photo)

Photos by: Daniel Overberger and Nancy Winebarger

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Vampire Bait

My nerves twitch like roaches in hallways of fumigated apartment complexes.

In the 1960s and 1970s, government trucks roamed the streets spraying DEET into the neighborhood trees. My mother called us inside and shut the windows while the neighborhood kids ran after the trucks laughing and playing in the fog of chemical death.

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That Cleveland summer and every Cleveland summer, I got eaten alive by mosquitoes. Fourteen bites in one night is my record. My father may have me beat but he’s a stoic man who never talks about such things publicly.

If only I could make a deal with the insect vampires of the world. Every night I would gladly leave them a half pint of my finest blood if only they would stop biting me. These things, sadly, are not arrangeable. Some have said money can buy anything, but it is not true. These insects are clumsy degenerates that will compromise all to get just a tiny taste.

It’s like that show Monkey Thieves, where a monkey and his tribe find food in the city and they all run over and go crazy eating it while they spill 90% of the proceeds of their conquest all over the floor to be wasted. We cannot make deals with such vagrants. So I lay under a mosquito net covered in DEET in the tropics with my socks on, knowing full well that I will wake up with three to four new bug bites in the morning. I guess this is what rum is for. I’ve heard it also called acceptance.

I worried often about the mosquitoes, but alas, I was being bitten by sand fleas. The price of paradise for those of the sweet blood tribe.

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Airport Rhythm

The Miami airport has its own rhythm. Maybe I should say “unique,” since every airport has a rhythm. More often than not, it’s an unpleasant rhythm. LAX is at the top of the unpleasant rhythm list. It’s surprising in its awfulness, especially since Los Angeles has a decent musical history.

But Miami has a fresh rhythm… definitely a conga backbeat with a laid back rhythm that is easy to ride. It’s shy on low end, which is a little surprising, like a bra that sets off metal detectors. It might be a South American thing. Lots of high end, not enough bass.

How anyone misses this is only mildly understood. It’s the economics of electronics. Loud and bright, cheap and fast. The Caribbean is the exception: it is the world capital of low end. No one does it better. It’s a reggae thing. (By the way, the bottom needs to be big and tight, not just big. Ask a Rasta.)

I hear two people talking in Spanish. Good rhythm. No low end. N sits next to me talking in the rhythm of the South. She’s wishing her North Carolina kin a happy holiday. I feel like I am at the center of the earth… wherever I am.

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Song and Dance

It rained every day but we barely noticed.

We waited between downpours under the overhangs of unattended bodegas on Boxing Day.

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We walked past a cemetery and took pictures of goats tied to graves. I told Nancy that if anyone asked, we would say we were taking photos so we would remember to pray for the dead when we returned to America. Having grown up a Catholic, I am aware of superstition, the possibility of misunderstanding and the appearance of a lack of respect.

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The pelicans don’t care about the rain… they dive for fish all day long and into the night.

Four young boys sing us Christmas songs, one keeping time with a shaker. Ironically, it’s a tourist shakedown. We give them one dollar (US) to make them go away. But under the influence of rum, I decide we should follow them. For half a mile, they look back over their shoulders trying to figure out why we won’t go away. Turnabout is fair play. At the end of that half mile, I thought about asking them to sing again so we could film it. I didn’t ask, knowing it would have blown their little minds wondering if we were going to continue following them and asking them to sing from time to time.

The rum brought out the ghost of my grandfather. He would have asked and followed them into their homes demanding more songs and commenting on their pitch and timing, telling them they should practice more and maybe get matching outfits.

N would have never let this happen. But for me, it is often just as fun—if not more fun—to imagine the what ifs.

The rain has stopped. My shoes, socks, pants, shirt and paper are moist. But in 85 degrees, it hardly seems like a problem. A bird sings a song I think of stealing until at last I have forgotten the melody.

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The locals set up speakers in the street outside the bar. The bass thunders across the entire island. It would not be possible to hear or think anything else. The bottom is big and tight.

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Abandoned house in the Caribbean

I found this house on the island of Carriacou. There are many structures like this around the island… much of it due to the hurricanes of the past.

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I have a deep attraction to these abandoned…things. It is a reminder to me that the earth will take everything back… eventually.

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I’ve always thought that if humanity abuses the earth enough, it will just evict us and start over with very little trouble.

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It’s a beautiful message of impermanence and mortality.

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How long will it take the vines to pull all of it back down into the soil?

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The rhythm of insects singing in the distance.

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Notes from the West Indies

Sometimes my favorite time is breakfast. It’s the beginning of the day and maybe you don’t know what’s coming.

We walked a couple blocks down the street to access Hillsborough Beach. It’s a one mile stretch of beach that runs the west side of  Carriacou island. We walked the long beach with our backs a little sore from the sunburn we got snorkeling in the Tobago Cays the day before on Dave’s Boat tour.

NancyUnderThis being our second snorkeling experience — plus a refresher in shallow water the day before — made it extremely cool. I don’t know what I was thinking on the first trip when I just jumped off the boat in the middle of the sea thinking, “Yeah, I’ll just figure this out as I go.” I drank a whole lot of the Caribbean Sea that time.

Anyway, at the end of our mile long walk on the beach — completely empty because it was Christmas day — we found a ship that had run aground years ago.

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As we approached the ship it instantly reminded me of the final scene in the 1968 “Planet of the Apes” film. The closer we got to the ship, The Gulf Coast III, I seemed to be taking on more and more strange emotions. Something very connected to mortality. The  ship had a large hole cut in the side of it that I very slowly crawled into. A couple feet of murky water stood in the bottom of the ship and I felt almost panicked standing inside in the low light, balancing on a piece of metal that hovered just above the dark water. I had trouble catching my breath and tried to breathe slowly. I felt as if somehow I could be swallowed up and dragged down into the dark abyss of time long gone. I felt a big, strange, exciting fear. I took many pictures and looking at them now I am definitely getting a sense memory of that feeling of mortality I felt while I was there. (See more pictures here.)

After our walk, we returned to the Green Roof Inn. They have a great staff. The chef, Leslie Ann, prepared me a vegetarian meal that was not on the menu. It’s an island, so everything we ate was mostly local. I didn’t eat the fish but Nancy did. It was pulled straight out of the water we walked along an hour ago. The eggs we would have for breakfast were from the chickens that ran around the yard under our room that overlooked the sea.

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I had a couple rum punches with dinner. In the Caribbean you never have to ask, “What would a pirate do/drink?”

The next morning, near 5 am, the rooster started his calls.

“Cock-a-doodle-do!”

“Cock-a-doodle-do!”

I rolled over and said, “Alright, mother fucker!” And Nancy said,

“Cock-a-doodle-don’t.”

We laughed and went back to bed.

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There are emotions and feelings that we can experience but cannot express. These are the moments that connect us to the universal Truth that cannot be written into a sentence, a paragraph or a book. These are the things to swim in like the deep pool that is the collective. No life rafts, no safety bars. Just the stillness of primitive man looking to the skies and knowing nothing is explainable.